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Beaumont Enterprise - Interview


October 31, 2007

 

 

Tennis diva to appear at Ford Arena

She never won a singles tournament as professional, but few tennis players achieved more popularity - and appeared in more fashion magazines - than Anna Kournikova.

She'll be in Beaumont to participate in the Christus Pro/Celebrity Classic at Ford Arena Friday night. Also participating is Pete Sampras, whose 14 Grand Slam singles titles are an all-time record.

Among other participants are tennis professionals Justin Gimelstob and Chanda Rubin and television journalist Stone Phillips, a Texas City native.

Although without a singles title, Kournikova, 26, achieved much success in the doubles game. She won two Grand Slam events paired with Martina Hinges and 16 doubles tournaments overall.

She answered questions about her playing career, fame and most memorable moments.

Your professional career ended in 2003. How often do you compete these days?
Anna: "I try to play as often as I can and in as many of these (events) that I come across, especially when it's for great causes and with fun people. I'll be playing with Pete Sampras. I'm really looking forward to it. It's a great opportunity for me to get back on the court and playing tennis in a more or less competitive environment."

You've had success as a doubles player. How do you feel your skills translate into the doubles game? What's the main difference - aside from the obvious of having another player on the same side of the net - between singles and doubles?
Anna: "Doubles were never first for me because I always played singles. But I guess that's why I did pretty well in doubles because I never put any pressure at all on myself. I just always played doubles just for fun. I always played with partners I got along with and had a great time with. It was never about winning, really, and I ended up winning much more there, so it was kind of strange. I played it for fun and to practice for singles. In some weird twist, it came out the opposite."

Did you feel pressured as a singles player?
Anna: "I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel pressure. I put a lot of pressure on myself. Dealing with pressure comes with experience. I was so young when I stopped playing, when I was 22 years old. I'm sure if I was playing right now on the tour I would think differently."

Through the course of your career you received a lot of attention on the court and off the court. How much of that was sought and how much of that did you want to deflect?
Anna: "When I was playing, I tried to deflect a lot of it. When you're in that position - and like I said, I was so young and inexperienced - you have all these people around you and you're just thrown in the middle of it all, and I did the best I could to stay focused. I played. Tennis was always my goal. Tennis was my No. 1 priority."

Golfers remember specific shots. Baseball players remember pitch sequences in at-bats. Are there any specific moments in your career that stand out for you? Like a serve or a volley?
Anna: "There are moments. There are quite a few. I don't think I could name one of them. There are always moments that stick with you, in the first round of some unknown tournament or in the semifinals of Wimbledon, there are definitely moments that stand out more than other ones."

Is there any moment you're most proud of?
Anna: "For me, it's when I beat the top players. It's when I beat Steffi Graf. When I beat Monica Seles, who was my idol growing up. When I beat Martina Hinges, who was unbeatable at the time, No. 1 in the world. When I beat Lindsay Davenport, when she was No. 1 in the world. When I beat Arantxa Sanchez. It was always about the players. It was about the players on the other side that I beat, when I felt like I accomplished something by beating those No. 1s in their prime, too. That was a huge satisfaction for me."

Do you miss the competition?
Anna: "I do, of course. You can never replace that feeling you have on the court and stuff. It's very special in a way. There's nothing like it."

Many athletes in America go into acting after their playing days. Is there a next step for you like that?
Anna: "I don't see myself going into acting unless it was something for 20 seconds, something fun. If I wanted to do something, I'd want to do it professionally and learn about it. I love working with Boys and Girls Clubs all over the country. I love working with the boys and girls, that's a big priority for me now. Then playing in these exhibitions. These are fun for me. ... There are things I want to do with modeling here and there. I've got to pay the bills. (laughter). That's it."

How much do you pay attention to things happening in your home country (Russia)?
Anna: "Just enough. My dad keeps me posted. My grandmother and stuff, but I'm not into politics or anything."

 

 

 

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 Find out more at Anna's offical website:
kournikova.com